How does one determine if they can be happy living in LA?
December 14, 2006 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Job interview in west LA, never been to LA before, am spending a few days there. What's the best stuff to checkout in the area to tell if I can be happy living in LA?

Job interview in Westwood LA, never been to LA before, am spending a few days there. What's the best stuff to checkout in the area to tell if I can be happy living in LA?

I imagine like most outsiders, my conception of LA comes from the movies & TV I've seen, and it doesn't seem all that great. Traffic, crime, high prices, shallow film industry folks, impoverished illegal immigrants, the Governator, etc.
I'm a midwesterner, so LA might as well be on another on planet. But I'd like to try to like LA. I guess I'm lucky to be heading to one of the nicer areas, right? So if you can speak from personal experience, I'd be grateful for any tips about what's awesome and what unbearable about this area!

I know rule #1 is: Live as close as possible to your job. However, I've read that Westwood is not nearby any freeway. But maybe there are awesome and accessible neighborhoods to live in nearby?
I'd prefer to be around people like me: 20's, educated, counter culture
artists/hippies, non-shallow.

Usually a college environment is friendly to all that, and I see UCLA is nearby, so maybe I can throw darts on the UCLA map, find an apartment and soon love LA!

Also, as far as crime goes, how do LA natives know which neighborhoods to avoid? Does this mean just walking through or driving through as well?
And is LA really so anti-pedestrian? Is everyone is forced to drive due to the traffic congestion and the crime ridden neighborhoods? Can I expect to live as easily as a pedestrian like I have in other cities?

Replies are appreciated, thanks!
posted by archae to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (15 answers total)
Who said Westwood's not by a freeway? It's right by the 405! (Granted, the 405 moves slow enough during rush hours--which are almost all the time--to not necessarily count.)

If you're looking for counter-culture people in their 20's, best head to Venice Beach and just walk up and down, and maybe the Santa Monica area. Go to Abbot Kinney for dinner.

Westwood itself tends to have two kinds of apartments: Cheap but really grungy (targeting college students) and nice but very expensive.

Palms, where I live (by the 405 and the 10) is another great, livable area very close to Westwood. Good luck!
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:26 PM on December 14, 2006

You really need a car in LA, things are just too spread out. People living on the westside think nothing of meeting at a restaruant in West Hollywood, Venice, the Pacific Pallisades, or Manhattan Beach. Public transportation takes ages and is the domain of poor people.

There really are not any downtowns (like in east coast cities) - concentrations of stores and businesses near each other that if you lived nearby you could walk between then and satisfy all of your needs.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:41 PM on December 14, 2006

Best answer: I'd agree with kingjoeshmoe that the artist/hippie types congregate in the Venice area. Don't count on UCLA being the typical "college town" -- it's nestled in between Beverly Hills and Bel Air, after all.

I worked at UCLA and commuted in from West Hollywood -- a 5 mile drive on Sunset, yes, but with traffic it could take 30-45 minutes. Traffic is pervasive in Los Angeles and even if you can find a place to live that's close to work which doesn't require you to get on the freeway, you're still going to get caught up in bad delays on the streets. It's one of the things I definitely don't miss about LA.

I would suggest not living any more than 8-10 miles away from Westwood, which puts you not much further away than the ocean to the west and Hollywood to the east. I left LA 2 years ago, and if everything's still the same, I would suggest that you definitely avoid living in the valley. Commuting on the 405 is for the insane.

Crime-wise, LA's got it everywhere. Of course you'd want to avoid going to South LA, but even Venice has its share of gang violence (well, it did a few years ago -- can't say for sure now). I don't think you'd have to be worried about being carjacked just by driving through a questionable neighborhood, but also don't go exploring for exploring's sake and get lost. Even if you stay within Westwood, which is considered safe, it's not wise to be walking around alone at 3am -- I knew several people who were mugged.

One of the things that really got to me in LA were the stereotypical wealthy, shallow, road raged jerk-offs that seemed to be everywhere. I'm generalizing, sure, but the few rotten apples ruined it for me. Another thing I've realized about Californians is how they just aren't as friendly as people elsewhere (this coming from a native Californian, mind you).

Okay, so my review of LA doesn't seem to be glowing, but overall, it's a great place to live because of the sheer number of things to do (especially between the ocean and downtown) and the great weather. I didn't feel this way when I moved away, but I definitely miss that town. I put together this list of great things about LA like 5 years ago but some of them aren't around any more (and some of them are just plain stupid). Although I was sick of LA after being there for 8 years, I can say that one thing I miss is the diversity, ie, all of the different cultures and types of people crammed in together. Great food, also -- nothing here in Austin even comes close to my favorite LA eateries.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:49 PM on December 14, 2006

I moved to LA a few weeks ago.

To find out if I would be happy, I went and explored Westwood and Santa Monica a bit before and after my interview (I did not have a car at the interview and that really made it hard), and also talked with folks I know in real life who'd moved to and from LA. Everyone has a very different experience; but what I noted was that liking it or not liking it was kind of a visceral reaction: if you love it, you love it immediately.

Where to live: Westwood (where UCLA is) and the nearest areas are expensive. Think filthy 50 square foot studios renting for $1200 + utilities and no parking. Often stoves and/or refrigerators do not come with apartments, so beware of this. (For some reason everyone in LA thinks this is normal and your landlord may not mention it to you, so ask!)

I work in Westwood and live in Palms (5 miles away). In theory this is a young neighborhood but I never see other people my own age (late 20s) here, but I feel pretty safe. It is hard to find an apt. in LA on short notice, especially if you are on a budget, so don't be too wedded to the idea of living in a specific neighborhood if this will be your situation. Drive through neighborhoods you want to live in to look for "for rent" signs and to scope out the safety.

I do have a car which I use for fun and big grocery trips, but I take the bus to work. It's a 30 minute door-to-door commute, which is the same time it takes my roomate, who drives his car each day. You can live without a car at all but a lot of places will be closed off to you; the buses really only go to the schools (universities and K-12), cultural stuff like museums, and big shopping centers. There are 3 grocery stores, a hardware store, a laundromat, restaurants, etc. within a 2 mile radius, which is just not a bad walk at all for me, especially because it is warm and sunny nearly every day.

Many people here think I am insane for walking to any store or restaurant; meanwhile driving 45 minutes to go to the best cheap taco stand in the city is seen as a perfectly normal pursuit.

You can be a pedestrian, there are many sidewalks and crossing lights, but 1. things are really spread out, and walking a mile in a real city is nothing, but a mile next to a 6-lane street with traffic whizzing by is kinda stressful; and 2. You'll be the only one walking.
posted by holyrood at 11:31 PM on December 14, 2006

Uh, the sentence "There are 3 grocery stores..." should say those places are within 2 miles from my house.
posted by holyrood at 11:49 PM on December 14, 2006

my conception of LA comes from the movies & TV I've seen

Ironically, Hollywood's perspective on Los Angeles is pretty much as skewed as Hollywood's perspective on everything else--if not more so. After all, it's easier to make a caricature of something you're familiar with.
posted by IvyMike at 12:50 AM on December 15, 2006

Good advice so far: Venice is probably a good option for you. Get a car.

Two key "is LA for me" tests:

1. Do you enjoy driving / exploring by car?

2. Are you OK not having a cohesive "scene" to join? Unlike, say, San Francisco, you're not going to find a tight-knit community right away that will guide your introduction. You're going to have to cobble your LA together - your friends (who will live all over), your favorite noodle place, your favorite bookstore etc. Your first year might be lonely, mine was. But now I could easily imagine never leaving.
posted by lbergstr at 8:47 AM on December 15, 2006

I work in Westwood and commute by bus. I live near Pico/Fairfax and take the Big Blue Bus, which is much better than the MTA/Metro, and is less expensive as well. For me, it takes about the same amount of time to get to work by bus as it would to drive.

I lived in LA for almost 5 years without a car, and I got around fine. If you get off the main streets & walk on of the residential streets, you'll see more people.

The Fairfax district might be a good option for you. There are lots of apartments in that area, and the Metro Rapid bus runs along Wilshire & stops at Westwood.
posted by mogget at 9:32 AM on December 15, 2006

I live in a non-college student ghetto part of Westwood (ie south of Westwood Village). Rent is by no means cheap, but I share a decent sized 2 bedroom apartment with a garage and pay fairly average rent. Rush hour traffic is a nightmare here, which is why I'm happy to live in my decidely unhip hood so that I can walk or bus to school/work. Sometimes I think about moving closer to the ocean, but that's about it. The section of Westwood Blvd near me has almost anything I'd need (and tasty persian food, which I technically don't need) and I usually drive to Trader Joes for my groceries. Living here without a car kinda sucked, but more so for my social life than anything else. If you feel no guilt about mooching rides, then this would be easier for you.

I moved here ~2 years ago for school after living in the midwest for most of my life and in nyc for the previous few years. I hate hate hated it my first few months. I was convinced I had made a terrible mistake. But then I stopped comparing it to other places and focused on the fun unique aspects of this place and suddenly it was January, I was still wearing shorts and running along the ocean and life didn't seem so bad.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2006

Ditto everyone saying carlessness isn't viable. (I actually did live in LA without a car for a year -- but I was getting a master's degree in that one year, so I didn't have the time to go any of the places I couldn't have gotten.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2006

Best answer: I've been in LA for a few years now... and I've got a few thoughts:

- I've been on the east side, I've been south to The OC, I've got friends in Downtown... and for all I've seen so far, West LA is the best part of the City. I live on the west side and I have no intentions of moving.

- The closer you are to the beach, the better the weather is overall. When It's 100 and baking in downtown, it's 85 and breezy on the coast.

- The closer you are to your work, the better. Traffic dominates your daily routine here.

- LA is so diverse and so expansive, there's something for everyone to do here. It really depends on what you are interested in.

- LA is also a city of travel. Just by being in LA, you reduce your costs to travel abroad. You may consider traveling someplace abroad because it's more affordable to do it from here.

- Did you miss your favorite band when they were in town? Don't's LA, they'll be back soon, everyone comes here.

- Westwood -> LAX -> Vegas - 90 min.

- I agree with some of the other posters here that it seems to be a little more difficult to make longer lasting and deeper friendships here. The community feel is definitely missing. Social Circles can definitely be challenging. Outward appearances sadly have far more meaning here than they should.

- LA Hits you with the worst of the city first. The heat, the traffic, the cost... It takes time to discover the gems of LA... the diversity, the food, the art.

While you are in town... go out to the beach...see the small communities in Venice and Manhattan Beach. If you don't want to live in Westwood, you would want to live south in Palms or west in Santa Monica (Santa Monica gets my vote). it makes sense to live close to a freeway, since you will be on one most of the time anyway.

Downtown LA is it's own jungle, diverse, unique, and interesting...I'd go down there and look around. There you can find the best and the worst that LA has to offer.
posted by djdrue at 10:47 AM on December 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Indie-hipster zones to check out:

- Venice/Abbot-Kinney area (best bet)
- Loz Feliz/Silver lake
- West Hollywood

Non-hipster Zones:
- Brentwood
- Beverly Hills
- 'The Valley'
- South Central/Long Beach
posted by djdrue at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2006

You might also take a look at the Silver Lake neighborhood to see if you like the vibe there. The people there are a bit more hipster to the Venice hippie, but depending on what you like to do, there may be more night life. It's also a little closer to Hollywood which would be good if you like music. It's not my scene, but it sounds like it might be yours.

What kind of stuff do you like to do? Are you into music, or art, or outdoors stuff, or what? There's something for everyone here for sure. I've never been bothered by crime, and I go into lots of neighborhoods in plenty of parts of town. Maybe I've just been lucky, but it's been 11 years now, and it's just not as prevalent as you might be imagining.
posted by willnot at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2006

One more thing: if you're curious about crime in a specific area, check out the LAPD Crime Maps.
posted by mogget at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2006

Every time I go "home" to LA (a native now living in DC) I make sure I get caught in one rush hour (not hard to do). It reminds me of why I left (but listening to KRTH on the radio puts me right back in my youth! -grin).

To make sure you will enjoy/like LA you must drive and experience the traffic. It is one of the most pervasive elements defining the city.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:55 AM on December 15, 2006

« Older Typographyfilter: Help me figure out what...   |   Who is the artist/musician in L.L. Bean's Holiday... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.